Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was an “open discussion” as to whether a sitting U.S. president could be indicted.
Pelosi, a California Democratic, told NBC’s Today show that she did not believe that the Department of Justice guidance that presidents could not be indicted while in office was conclusive.
The context for her comments is the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and suspicions that the Trump campaign conspired with agents of the Kremlin.
Through his investigation, Mueller also uncovered campaign finance violations by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and fixer, who arranged for two hush payments to two women who alleged they’d had affairs with Trump.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison. In his plea deal with Mueller, Cohen implicated Trump in the campaign finance violations by saying Trump directed him to make the payments for the benefit of the campaign. Trump has denied the affairs and knowledge of the payments or that they had anything to do with his campaign.
“Let’s just see what Mueller does,” Pelosi said, adding that the Justice Department guidance on indictment of sitting presidents is “not the law.”
The Justice Department and White House did not respond immediately to Newsweek’s requests for comment.
According to the Justice Department’s guidance from 2000: “The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting president would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
Pelosi takes the gavel once again when she is sworn in as speaker on Thursday. She has member of the House of Representatives since 1987, and served as speaker from 2007 to 2011.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more information as it becomes available.